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Reflecting on the Past, Looking Towards the Future

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Reflecting on the Last 110 Years

Where and when the first gasoline station appeared is difficult to establish since various types of service stations started popping up in America around the early 1900’s. Standard Oil of California, now present day Chevron, lays claim to opening the first service station back in 1907 according to the 1994 book "The Gas Station in America" by John Jakle and Keith Sculle.

Chevron’s website state’s that at the time, the first station manager invented the station by setting a 30-gallon water heater on a platform, attaching a garden hose to dispense gasoline and adding a glass gauge that measured the amount of fuel that flowed into the customer's tank. With the installation of a canvas canopy, planked driveway and shelves to display Zerolene oils and greases, the world´s first service station was born.

For historical purposes, we'll credit Chevron as being the birthplace of the gasoline station – and contemplate for a few moments how the station has evolved over the past 110 years – and where it might be headed.

So what's next?

The service station has changed considerably from that rickety contraption of 1907 to the modern day Wayne Ovation2. Many gas stations have been combined with convenience stores, a sort of throwback to the early days of gasoline retailing when rural stations were a small grocery with a pump or two out front. Nowadays you have the gasoline dispensers mounted with flat screen televisions for the customer to watch TV while they pump their gas. Yup, the times they are a movin’ quickly.

The next big shift for gas stations is already on its way in the profusion of gasoline alternatives. Accommodating the pumps for gasoline, biodiesel and E85 will continue to require considerable capital investment and physical reconfiguration of existing stations.

The truly radical change will come when the engine itself changes from internal combustion to ... what? Hydrogen fuel cells? Electronic motors? Something else?

Will these changes require a new type of filling station? Or will the new service station actually be in the home garage where you can recharge your car's battery by plugging it into a wall socket at night? Or filling up the hydrogen supply with a connector to the home natural-gas line?

Given the current acceleration of change in engine and fuel technology, the gas station is likely to be far more radically transformed in its next 50 years of existence than its first 100.